The closing conference “Plastics and Composites in the Waste Hierarchy” of the Retracking Interreg V-A Italia-Slovenia programme project, co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), was held on Friday, November 29, 2019 at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia in Ljubljana.

At the conference different plastic waste was examined through the waste hierarchy, determining the best solutions and business models to improve the waste management, prevent pollution and support the transition towards a circular economy.

CEPLAFIB project was invited to present their practice results as one of the key recognized environmental experts on waste transforming solutions.
Participants in the Retracking final conference shared their experience in managing waste from composites and other plastic materials and discussed which solutions are most appropriate and feasible. Slovenia and the world face the major challenges in this area. Some of the key observations discussed during this event are given below.

Plastics and composites are excellent materials, with a long-life span, good production and processing costs and great potential for use. We, as a society, should value these properties and make better use of them, since it is best to prevent the generation of waste by extending the life of the products, maintaining them and reusing them.

Where waste cannot be avoided, with a proper recovery or recycling techniques this waste plastics is needed to be returned back in the economy. The latter challenge is addressed by the RETRACKING project. It focuses on the possibilities of processing composite materials in terms of the development of new technologies and business models of the circular economy, as was presented by Mr. Primož Oprčkal, form Slovenian National Building Institute – ZAG.

The production of composite products is accompanied by the huge amount of generated waste for which currently there are limited effective systems for managing them. Companies are trying to reduce the volumes, but unfortunately, they cannot guarantee the production with zero waste, said Ms. Helena Saje from VEPLAS company, and Ms. Vlasta Hafnar, from Elan company, one of the major Slovenian producers of composite products. Companies have been facing a much higher cost of waste management since the start of 2019 and solutions are urgently needed, they stressed.

How the circular economy works for the composite wastes was presented by Mr. Giorgio Betteto from Gees Recycling, and Mr. Marko Petelin from Infordata Systems. The companies have collaborated to digitize the recycling process and set up the possibility to track the recycled materials using a modern digital technology. Possible uses of reclaimed material were presented by Technol Nevij Baruca, who emphasized that only a critical measure of the mental effort of a group of people striving for the same goal is needed to bring the circular management model close to the location of the source of waste.

When plastic materials are at final converted to waste, it is important to recognize them and to implement the possibility of their thermal recovery as a more suitable alternative to landfilling when material recycling is no longer possible due to waste properties. Ms. Tanja Ljubič Mlakar from Salonit Anhovo, spoke about the possibilities and benefits of thermal waste treatment. She stressed that the waste must be properly prepared before being taken to the cement plant. According to research, the share of waste utilization as a fuel does not affect the emissions. The experience of the utility companies with different waste streams and their identification was presented by Mr. Jože Gregorič from Voka Snaga, who emphasized that in the coming years both the public and private waste management will have to transform into the raw materials production sector. Many transformation processes have already begun.

The conference was concluded with a look ahead. Researchers Mr. Peter Fajs from TECOS, Mr. Mitja Jermol from IJS, and Mr. Lucio Marquardt from ENECOLAB, introduced innovative technologies for the production of high-quality waste fuels and a new generation of composite materials based on waste plastics and paper for the automotive, packaging and construction sectors.

RESULTED BENEFITS FOR CEPLAFIB: Our innovative CE was presented to the large international public auditory, comprised of around 77 participants. In addition, we gain a possibility for networking with other LIFE projects – leaded or implemented by the Slovenian National Building and Civil Engineering Institute (ZAG):

  • LIFE ReBirth – Promotion of the recycling of industrial waste and building rubble for the construction industry.
  • LIFE RusaLCA – Nanoremediation of water from small waste water treatment plants and reuse of water and solid remains for local needs.
  • LIFE HIDAQUA – New LIFE project starting this September 2019, focused on cleaning, recycling and water collection for industrial needs.